Winchester begins to charge for entry

02 November 2006

WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL is to introduce admission charges from next month, to help meet its £2.1-million annual running costs.

Visitors will be charged an entry fee of £4 (concessions £3.50), beginning on Ash Wednesday, 1 March. But residents living in the Winchester district will be able to buy an annual pass for £6, giving unlimited entry. Those who live outside the area can buy an annual pass for £12.

Churchgoers in the diocese will also be exempted from the charges if they use special passes, as will those who regularly give to the cathedral. Anyone attending services or wanting to enter the cathedral to pray will not be charged.

The decision was originally proposed under the Very Revd Michael Till, who retired as Dean last year. A spokesman for the cathedral said on Monday that the new Dean, the Very Revd James Atwell, who will be installed later next month, had been kept fully aware of the developments.

A statement released by the Acting Dean, the Ven. John Guille, said: "We set outselves the task of maximising access, while also working with the sad trend that increasing numbers of visitors are giving less or not donating at all."

The cathedral is expecting an increase in visitors this summer when the Da Vinci Code film is released in May. Winchester and Lincoln were both used as locations, and the cathedral will host a Da Vinci Code exhibition from April to July, including discussion evenings. The £20,000 fee from the filming has been put into the cathedral's education programme.

Winchester joins a growing number of cathedrals charging for admission to cope with rising costs. They include Canterbury, St Paul's, York Minster, Lincoln, Ely, and Christ Church, Oxford. Westminster Abbey also charges.

The issue has always been contentious. In 2003, the then Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, criticised the decision by York Minster to charge for entry. He said: "Cathedrals are places for prayer and worship - a house of God - and our nation needs sacred places more than it has for many centuries." The Minster said that it had no alternative means of covering a £600,000 deficit.

Last summer, the Dean of Chichester, the Very Revd Nicholas Frayling, said he was "resolutely" against charging for entry. He said that when cathedrals made a charge, it became more like "entering some exhibition or the Millennium Dome: it loses some of its spirituality."

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